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Dear City, I’m in love again

This is a guest post from reader Isabella

I’ve been with Wellington for a while. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s over 30 years together. Notwithstanding some flings with other cities, I’ve been faithful to you. But I can’t pretend I’ve not yearned for a few things you don’t have (like decent PT, some real bike infrastructure), and some things you’ll never have (better weather, lots of little tree-lined beaches).

But after that night, Wellington….

Ohhh, yeah.

Wellington, I’ve fallen for you again – better and more than ever!

That night… I went on a progressive dinner party, traversing the city by hired e-bike between Wellington on a Plate restaurants and bars.

Love City 1

À La Carless – the progressive dinner by e-bike – took 14 of us from Switched On Bikes on the waterfront, to entrées at Nam-D’s fairy-lit “hawker stall” on Tory St, up to mains, wine and desserts at Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn, back to sea level and Charley Noble on Post Office Square for cocktails. It was cold, drizzly, and a light southerly; from start to finish, we progressive diners had the time of our lives.

The Wellingtonista has a great full-spectrum review, but here’s what made one woman glow on her date with Wellington

The “progressive” part of “progressive dinner”

Oh, those hills. They’re so… Wellington.

Without them (and the Town Belt) we’d not have our compact CBD, so… thankyou hills. But dammit, getting up them on foot or on a bike is just hard – especially dressed for dinner, and drinking some nice wines. And especially if it’s windy.

So it’s bus (timetable, ugh), or taxi / Uber (expense, carbon, ugh), or make a few people sober-drive everyone else (carbon, parking, feeling obliged – triple ugh).

But the progressive diners of À La Carless could have our progressive cake and eat it all. Our progressive progress around the city was on e-bikes. And it was a complete revelation.

Love City 2

E-bike serenely contemplating a Wellington hilltop view. No sweat. (Photo: Wellingtonnz.com)

From cruising at jogging pace along the waterfront, bells dinging cheerily and passers-by waving, we progressive diners hit the road. Keeping up easily with the traffic through town, we headed up to Salty Pidgin in Brooklyn. Brooklyn Road, known as a never-ending gut-buster for all but the Fittest Cyclists, was a total breeze.

We zoomed up at a comfortable 20km, this diner cackling with delight as we passed walkers and Proper Cyclists slogging their way up, and as steamed-up buses and cars passed us.

Dear Wellington, after 20 years of getting around in you, and stifling my groans at your hills… now I can wholeheartedly say I love your contours.
All it takes is an e-bike and a destination.

Love City 3

Brooklyn Road – on an e-bike, it’s e-asy (see what I did there?). Photo: Google Maps

Wining and dining and riding, oh my!

The e-bike made a true progressive dinner possible. We spent at most ten minutes door to door between restaurants or bars, and parked right outside every one. Our courteous-parking challenge was more than your average, because of our large posse of steeds, yet it felt easy and seamless finding a park anywhere.

On bowling up at each restaurant we were welcomed and our dish and drink selections arrived with perfect timing, thanks to seamless organisation by Frocks On Bikes.

And credit goes to Frocks’ ride-leading. Light-handed, informative and reassuring, the Frocks women enabled even the most nervous and unaccustomed riders to feel comfortable and enjoy the “progressions” between eateries. Even the most nervous were exclaiming “I had no idea Wellington could be so easy to ride around!”

Love City 4

Some progressive diners getting ready for the road – and dinner

You surprised me, you charmed me

The evening’s destinations were kept secret until we were ready to hit the road, but several of us were extra startled to hear we’d be heading back down to the city and Charley Noble via Central Park. Central Park is in the middle of town but feels like a wilderness – steep, densely bushed, and somewhere you avoid at night (especially if you’re female).

Love City 5

L: Central Park by day (Photo: Tripadvisor). R: Central Park’s nocturnal wildlife (well, maybe). (Photo: hillsofafrica.com)

But with a bike gang of dining buddies, it was just exciting! “Ooo this is such an adventure!” people said as we rolled through the dark trees, with ruru calling our passing and headlamps illuminating the tree-trunks and ferns. The cherry on our dining adventure cake was a stop-off in the middle of the Park – for a zoom on the flying fox. Every progressive dinner should have such an interlude!

Wellingtonians, it seems, can wear all manner of outfits (high heels, dresses, capes, trench-coats) on bikes and on flying-foxes with equal aplomb. (Though despite our narrow streets and traffic there was only screaming in Central Park; flying foxes are a tad more thrilling than riding a bike).

I lived within walking distance of Central Park for years, and never realised how great it’s become. Wellington, I love how you surprise me!

Now, for a threesome…

My partner said “Hell no I’m not A Cyclist” and turned down the offer of a ticket to A La Carless. He’s now regretting it, but he needn’t fear.

The next free weekend we have, I’m hiring us some Switched On Bikes and doing a progressive dining date with Wellington!

11 comments to Dear City, I’m in love again

  • hamish

    Fantastic. Ebikes seem like the perfect solution to the problem of Wellington hills. Cruising up Brooklyn hill at 20km/h sounds very tempting.

  • Simon

    Brilliant idea for a WOAP event. Agree on the liberation that an ebike provides in Wellington. I’ve had mine ~6 months and it’s awesome.

  • Rob Mayo

    Can this e-bike dining experience be provided in Auckland?

    • Hi Rob. Yes it is. Nextbike New Zealand Ltd has a fleet of ebikes and we will be running a series of them over the summer. You must have missed the spring series which happened a couple of weeks ago as part of Auckland Restaurant Month

  • Guy M

    Isabella – sounds great – can I come?! Just a few queries, as I’m not exactly clear – does Frocks on Bikes mean you have to wear a frock? Does it also mean you have to be a woman? What if you are a man, do you need to / can you still wear a frock, or is that frowned upon? Or should we all just not give a flying frock about gender and just enjoy the ride anyway?

    • Kia ora Guy. Your last point nails it! Frocks On Bikes exists because while cyclists have a hard time in our towns, women face even more barriers (illustrated by the gender disparity in cycling for transport). The idea is: help women use bikes to make daily life better. Real life, with real women and their own, real clothes – even a floral frock if that’s what one’s wearing that day. So they do most stuff for women-type people, but (surprise!) men find the whole everyday cycling thing quite appealing too. So we get men-type people on a lot of our bigger events and our collaborations – like À La Carless.

      The frock metaphor has been so strong it’s become a double-edged sword TBH. It used to be “I want to ride a bike but I won’t cos I hate lycra” and they’re now getting the occasional woman say “I’d love to come ride but I don’t have a frock!” Frocks On Bikes are about “wear anything you like to wear” – so if you’re someone who regularly wears frocks (gender is immaterial!) you should feel free to wear one on a bike too. Or a tracksuit, jeans, skirt, hotpants, business suit, trenchcoat, tshirts….

      https://www.facebook.com/FrocksonBikes/ 🙂

  • JessicaRose

    AT have offered these tours as part of ‘Auckland Eats’ and they sell out every year. The more people get a chance to try an e bike the better however, the experience is transformative.

  • Andy White

    Forget about autonomous cars, ebikes are THE disruptive transport technology. And they’re available now, not at some undetermined point in the future at some unknown but probably unattainable price point.

    That said, it would be nice if widespread adoption would bring the price down a bit. I’d love a cargo ebike but at about $6500 it’s having difficulty making it’s way to the top of my shopping list.

  • GlenK

    This is probably a good place to remind people that ViaStrada is conducting research for NZTA on regulations/policy for the use of e-bikes, mobility scooters and other low-powered vehicles/devices (e-skateboards, e-unicycles, Segways, etc) in NZ. The first part involves gathering relevant literature and feedback from stakeholders. If you have an opinion on any of these devices (regardless of whether you use/own them), please complete this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/lowpowervehicles

  • Dave B (Wellington)

    Thank-you Isabella!

    And I see Brooklyn Road with TROLLEYBUS WIRES. Clean. green, electric and oh-so-Wellington.
    Enjoy them while you can because our not-so-smart Regional Council is about to scrap them.

    e-bikes, e-buses, e-trains, e-wind-turbines. In addition to hills and harbour, wind and waterfront, these are the ingredients that make Wellington great. Not motorways, stadiums, conference-centres and other vacuous monuments which politicians love to foist on us and brass-plate their names to.

    And I very-much doubt that the faux-electric buses we are supposed to be getting (diesel hybrids according to the fine print) will become the icons of the future that their promoters hope to be remembered for.

    At this very moment Wellington is in the grip of on one of those bone-chilling southerly storms, renowned for blowing away pollution, umbrellas and garage-rooves. And when the winds eventually die away, the city will feel fresh, cleansed and invigorated.
    The storm is also sure to take down a number of those unsightly campaign billboards that have sprung up in little colonies prior to the coming local elections. One can but hope it also blows away certain of our more useless politicians and their inane ideas for making all the mistakes that Auckland made and is now desperately trying to recover from.

  • flet1201

    That’s a great idea and for me one for weather slightly warmer, but nice on and thank you for your post!

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